Getting engaged is a huge step in a relationship! You’re making a commitment—publicly—about your plans to spend the rest of your lives together as partners. So, no matter how long you’ve been together or how ingrained your lives are, an engagement is a big life moment.
“Getting engaged is a definite change from when you’re just dating because the relationship has now entered a new phase where both [partners] have made the decision to get married,” says Dr. Dawn Michael, M.A. PhD ACS CSC. “Not only does it feel different personally, but there is a social aspect to it as well.”
Meet the Expert
Dr. Dawn Michael, M.A. PhD ACS CSC, is a nationally recognized expert on relationships and a certified clinical sexologist.
The good news is that so many of the changes that come with an engagement are positive ones. Once the flurry of social media congrats fades and the photoshoots are done, you’re just there, the two of you—an engaged couple. And as Michael suggests, some of the changes are social—you’d be amazed at how differently society treats you when you’re engaged. But more than that, it’s the changes between the two of you. There’s more pressure once you’re engaged, but there’s also a lot more joy.
Here’s what you need to know as you gear up to enter this new and exciting phase of your life as an engaged couple.
Disagreements Feel Heavier
When you’re engaged, every disagreement can feel more weighted. You’ve agreed to spend the rest of your lives together, so any friction that arises in a relationship can feel like a cause for panic. You want to make sure you’re “compatible not only with their personality, but finances, negotiation about decorating a house, and dealing with each other's families,” Michael says—so it’s normal to be feeling some pressure. Try to stay calm and remember that every relationship, even a marriage, will have some disagreements and require compromise.
Society Treats You Differently
It may sound old-fashioned, but there is a definite shift in how society treats you once you get engaged. “Society does treat an engaged couple differently because the couple is showing the world that they intend to be permanent, so others will treat the relationship as more serious and may invest more time into the couple,” Michael says. People are more willing to accept obligations you have to your partner or their family and tend to assume you’re a more well-matched couple, just because you’ve gotten engaged.
People Feel Like They Can Comment
It can be nice to feel like your relationship is respected, but the other side of that coin is people suddenly have a lot to say. About your engagement, about your wedding, about how the two of you interact; once you make your relationship public with an engagement, you may find that you get a whole lot of commentary alongside it. Don’t take it to heart. Ultimately, your relationship is about what you and your partner want—no matter what everyone else has to say.
It Can Feel Like a Rehearsal
Some people find their engagement period a bit surreal—like it’s a waiting room for getting married. “I think that an engagement is a rehearsal to the big event (marriage) and an important step in making a more solid commitment to each other,” Michael says. There’s so much focus on this big event that is going to happen, but make sure that you enjoy the here and now.
It Can Be Downright Joyous
Finally, there’s the fact that it can just be one of the happiest times of your life. One of the best parts about being engaged is that it can be the ultimate honeymoon phase. Even though it’s, you know, well before the actual honeymoon. You’ve got this amazing bubble where you’ve made a huge commitment to each other and you're on cloud nine. If the wedding planning stress starts to settle in, make sure you hold onto that joy. Remember that an engagement is just between you and your partner. Focus on yourselves as a couple and don’t sweat the small stuff.
It's a Time to Focus on Yourselves
Getting engaged is a huge decision—so it’s no surprise that there’s a definite change in your relationship once you agree to tie the knot. You’ll feel a difference in your relationship, but also between your relationship and the rest of the world. The great part is that most of the changes are positive ones, ones that make you feel more intimate and connected. As for the other changes, like your great Aunt Nancy’s sudden urge to tell you when you should be married and ask you an invasive question, well, you can just ignore those. An engagement may be a big change, but it’s still all about you and your partner.